Braised Lamb Shank

Braised lamb shanks represent the ultimate in simple, country comfort, and they're a great addition to your home-kitchen repertoire. I honed my recipe for the opening of the Blue Door restaurant at the Delano Hotel, Miami Beach, in 1995. But the idea was planted years ago when I had gigot à sept heurs ("seven-hour-lamb") in France; it was so tender that they served it without a knife.

The crucial flavor-building step here is to create a spice rub and allow the lamb to marinate well in advance. The rest of the procedure involves straightforward braising: it takes a long time, but once you've put the pan in the oven, you leave it alone and you can go about your other business. (In fact, it's best not to disturb the shanks much at all.) Once you've reduced the braising liquid to a sauce - another simple procedure that leaves you free to make other preparations  the meal is ready to serve. Like most braised or stewed meat dishes, this one actually improves if left in the fridge for a day or two and served reheated. Be sure to wash it down with a bottle of hearty Rhône red or some equivalent wine.

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 6 lamb shanks (1 to 1 1/4 pounds each), trimmed excess fat
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 0.5 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp coarsely ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic (2 large cloves)
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh thyme
  • 2 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp Madras curry powder
  • 3 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 2 Quart chicken stock, low-sodium canned

Directions

  1. Marinate the Lamb Shanks Place the cumin, coriander, curry powder, rosemary, thyme, garlic, and pepper in a small mixing bowl, and stir to combine well. Stir in 6 tablespoons of the oil to make a paste. Season the paste with 1 tablespoon salt. Run the lamb shanks with the spice rub, place them in a dish, and cover with plastic wrap (or in a large resealable plastic bag), and refrigerate overnight.
  2. Brown and Braise the Lamb Shanks: Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  3. Wipe the paste from the shanks with a paper towel and discard. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. (Choose a pan that is large enought to hold the shanks in a single snug layer, or use a separate large roasting pan for braising.) Working in batches is necessary, brown the shanks on all sides, about 20 minutes. Wipe out the skillet. (It is important to discard any burned spices.) Add the remaining two tablespoons of oil with the celery, onion, carrot, and cook over medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften and brown, about 12 minutes. Return the shanks to the pan, add the wine, and simmer until the pan is almost dry, about 8 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer until the pan is almost dry, about 8 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and place it in the oven to braise for 1 hour. (If using a separate roasting pan, transfer all contents before placing in oven.) Turn the shanks and cook until the lamb is very tender,about 1 more hour. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the shank to cool in their cooking liquid.
  4. Transfer the shanks to a plate or bowl and pass the braising liquid through a strainer into a saucepan. Discard the solids. Bring the braising liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat. Skim the fat as it rises. (Alternatively, chill the sauce so the fat hardens on top and can be removed.) Reduce the braising liquid to about two cups of sauce, approximately 15 minutes. Season the sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Return the shanks to the cooking pan. Pour the sauce over the shanks and reheat in the oven, basting with sauce frequently. Serve the shanks on a platter or in large bowls topped with sauce.